In the book Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior, Dr. David Hawkins describes a hierarchy of human emotional states beginning with shame and guilt on the low end and leading to peace and enlightenment on the high end.
Hawkins claims the lower emotional states weaken us, while the higher ones make us stronger. And the dividing line between strong and weak is the state of courage, which is the first positive state. Courage separates the lower energies of force, where we feel we are fighting life, from the higher energies of power, where we feel we are cooperating with life. As Hawkins writes:
[Courage] is the zone of exploration, accomplishment, fortitude, and determination. At the lower levels, the world is seen as hopeless, sad, frightening, or frustrating; but at the level of Courage, life is seen to be exciting, challenging, and stimulating. … Obstacles that defeat people whose consciousness is [lower] … act as stimulants to those who have evolved into the first level of true power. … This is where productivity begins.
Courage is the dividing line between weakness and strength of character. If you want to get past the situation where fear and anxiety run your life, you must eventually embrace the energy of courage. While it’s certainly not the highest evolutionary level available to you, it is the first positive rung as you work towards higher persistent states like reason, love, joy, and peace. At this level you see danger and risk, acknowledge it, and still take action in spite of it. This has the effect of shrinking the presence of fear in your life, such that you can grow into higher states where your needs are more easily met and fear simply becomes unnecessary. You realize that nothing out there is scary except to the degree you make it so in your mind, and you learn to stop creating fear within yourself. Courage is the gateway in the sense that you must first learn to face down your fears, even as they still appear real to you. As long as you avoid them, you continue to weaken yourself. But face them and they dissolve.